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'Exceptionally important decision': Full forensic excavation of Tuam mother and baby home to take place

The Government has been offered €2.5 million by the Bon Secours Sisters, who ran the home, towards the excavation.

Historian Catherine Corless places a
Historian Catherine Corless places a "baby's coffin" at a temporary shrine to the babies who died in the Tuam mother and baby home.
Image: Brian Farrell via RollingNews.ie

CHILDREN’S MINISTER KATHERINE Zappone has confirmed that there will be a full forensic examination of the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam, Galway. 

At a press conference today, Zappone said that a phased approach will be adopted which includes a forensic excavation and recovery of juvenile remains as well as the use of technology to locate potential burials.

“Our approach is reasonable and it is rooted in profound empathy,” the minister said today. 

On-site testing will be used at Tuam to identify possible burials and arrangements will be made for respectful reburials and memorialisation, the minister said. 

A process of individualisation and identification of infant remains will be undertaken – where possible. 

‘Very relieved’

Last year, a report identified five possible options for how the Tuam site should be handled.

In March 2017, the Commission into mother and baby homes confirmed that a “significant” number of human remains were discovered at the site of the former church-run home for unwed mothers. Scientific analysis put the age of death between 35 foetal weeks and two to three years.

Experts have previously said that the excavation of the site will be extremely complex, and that identification of the remains would be difficult, primarily because they would have “comingled”.

Between 1925 and 1960, 796 children died at the Tuam mother and baby home.

The work of Catherine Corless, an amateur historian, led to the discovery. In October, Corless was awarded the Bar of Ireland’s Human Rights Award for her work regarding the Tuam site.

Speaking to RTÉ News this afternoon, Corless said she was “very, very relieved” at today’s decision and “very happy for the survivors”.

Corless welcomed the fact that forensic and DNA testing will be used to identify remains and determine possible causes of death. 

It’s everything that we had been campaigning for.

In a statement this afternoon, the Tuam Babies Family Group welcomed today’s decision to fully excavate the site.

This is an exceptionally important decision and will pave the way for all the other mother and baby homes, and the lost children of Ireland.
We hope this decision will bring peace to the families of these children.

‘Voluntary contribution’

The cost of the forensic investigation at the Tuam site is estimated at between €6 million and €13 million.

The Bon Secours Sisters, who ran the mother and baby home, have offered the Government a €2.5 million voluntary contribution towards the investigation. This is not a settlement and “not an indemnity”, Minister Zappone said today. 

Due to the “unprecedented” nature of the site, “bespoke legislation” is required before proceeding with excavation. 

A cross-departmental group, tasked with drafting legislation, will meet within the next fortnight, the minister said. 

The impact on individuals and families has been devastating. We owe it to the strenghth and the passion and the courage of those who’ve spoken up, those who broke the silence, to act now. 

With reporting by Cónal Thomas

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